27 September 2006

Belly dancing only looks easy

Last night was the first night of belly dancing class. It's a great bit of fun and good exercise as well. Like yoga, belly dancing looks really easy. It's not. I love Middle Eastern music so it's not hard to move about while it's playing. But you are supposed to move an isolated part of your body, like your ribcage, and not shimmy all over the place. The studio mirrors are helpful. You can see if you're moving correctly. But that also means you can see what you're doing. That can be rather horrifying! I'm taking the class with a couple of friends from work. I've already made them swear that whatever happens in class, stays in class.

26 September 2006

How do you get your alias name?

On the news this morning, there was a story about a guy who burgled a bunch of stuff and now is helping the police recover what he stole. But that wasn't what got my attention. That or the fact that he'd been convited of 10 theft-related crimes since 1986. What caught my attention was this, "Wade Duane Arvidson, also known as Michael Damron." How did he pick that name as his alias? Was Michael some kid he didn't like in the second grade? Did he pick the name out of the air? Was he hoping to get the real Michael Damron, assuming there is one, in trouble?

Little things like this often control an inordinate amount of my gray matter.

21 September 2006

Music and memory

I've been really enjoying Semisonic. Particularly the CD, All About Chemistry. It's quite a shame that it took me so long to listen to this band. For years, this and other local bands gave me the shivers, and not in a good way. That's because I used to date someone who was really into local bands. I do not have many good memories of him so for years, the black cloud that hung over his head also hung over Semisonic and any other local band. Then this summer at the Reuben Lindh benefit I heard Semisonic play live. Past expunged!

That being said, most of my music memories are good. For example, Red, Red Wine by UB40 always makes me smile. For a long time I only knew that line from the song. A friend used to walk around quoting the line "Red, red wine makes me feel so fine," along with "is there gas in the car," from some song by Steely Dan.

Shout by Tears for Fears always makes me laugh. Jude and I used to sing that as if we were in a women's church choir -- over enunciating all of the words, leaving no feeling or style in the song. Guess you had to be there.

20 September 2006

I don't get it but it's funny

I discovered the source of one of my favorites quotes last week. Unfortunately it was because of the death of the quoter, former Texas governor, Ann Richards. She used the quote on "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me," the news quiz on NPR, on which she was a guest. At the end of her spot, after the host thanked her for playing the "Not my job" game, she said:
I haven't had this much fun since pigs ate my brother.
I have no idea what that means but I love it.

Morning observations

I went to my allergist's office today. It's in downtown Minneapolis. I miss working downtown. So much energy and there's always something happening. Some things I observed:
  • Traffic was horrid. I love the German word for traffic: der Stau (pronounced schtow -- tow is pronounced like the beginning of the word tower). I realized that when I sing in the car, my stress level goes down.
  • A car with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker that didn't use turn signals and drove 50 mph on a very busy, fast freeway. I get really nasty when I see those stickers. More so when the drivers are driving stupid. "Thanks for the mess in Iraq, you jerk." Swearing or yelling in German also works well.
  • A bumper sticker I love: I believe in the separation of church and hate.
  • A store that I hadn't noticed before: Lee's Wigs.
  • A sign on Associated Bank: Associated Bank bans guns on these premises. (In reference to the stupid conceal/carry gun law in Minnesota. Still, pretty funny on a bank!)
  • Lately I've been parking like a drunken sailor. Not lined up within the lines at all. Much more slanty.
  • At the clinic, the computer for the lung check (or "pulmonary function," which sounds so much more grand) was beeping and not doing what it was supposed to. Patrice, the nurse, stayed so calm and nice. In cases like that, for instance at my own work desk, I often grumble and call the computer names.

18 September 2006

Body Worlds

My parents were in town today and we went to Body Worlds at the Science Museum of Minnesota. It was incredible. I've never been very smart in science but what little I understand fascinates me. The exhibit is actual human bodies that have been preserved and cut open so you can see the insides. Here's how the museum's site describes it:
The exhibition features about 200 authentic human specimens, including entire bodies, individual organs and transparent body slices that have been preserved through the process of Plastination, a technique that replaces bodily fluids and fat with reactive plastics.
The smokers' lungs, uggh. If that doesn't scare you off smoking, I don't know what would. The last item in the collection is of a person on a horse. You can see the muscles and internal organs of the person and the horse. The horse's big, exposed lung was nice and white while the person's lung was much more on the grey/black side. I overhead someone say, "Looks like the person was a smoker but the horse wasn't."

I could pretty much forget that all of the pieces and whole bodies were at one time live human beings. And if I happened to remember that they were once living, I'd make myself think that the bodies were those of old people who died after long, happy lives. This didn't work when I got to the baby room. There are plasticine babies at various stages of development. It was at once fascinating and incredibly sad. They were all once alive. There's a pregnant woman in the room too. You can see her insides, inlcluding the developing baby. It was incredibly sad because you know that she and the baby, along with the rest of the babies in the room, met too early ends.

One of the coolest items was a model of all the blood vessels in the skull. You could tell it was a skull by the shape, ear outlines, etc. There are millions of little vessels and capilleries and what have you. No wonder even the tiniest head or facial injury is so bloody.

More info about the exhibit here.

16 September 2006

It is fall

I love fall. I love the crisp air, warm days and cool nights. There are so many good smells, too. Wood burning in fireplaces, bonfires, that musty wet leaf smell. And the colors are breathtaking. A huge nature palette.

But the sun going down so early is really confusing me. Like now, for instance. It's dark. I thought, "It must be 10, 11 p.m. I should get to bed." No. It's 8:30 p.m. (It doesn't help that for the last few days, in my nasty sinus episode, my sleep/wake cycle has mimicked Sophie's.)

I do admit that the night we set the clocks back an hour -- an extra hour of sleep, free! -- is one of the best nights of the year. But I do feel a sense of coming doom with the waning hours of sunshine. As old as I am, I still find it hard to go to work when it's just getting light and coming home in the dark. On the other hand, it is a much cozier time of year. And I am all about the coziness.

14 September 2006

Sophzilla, the blog, is 1!

I have been writing this blog for one year, as of today! In honor of this auspicious occasion I'm posting my first YouTube video attempt.

Reverse graffitti

From Boing Boing
Paul "Moose" Curtis creates his art by erasing dirt from public surfaces. British authorities aren’t sure what to make of the artist who is creating graffiti by cleaning the grime of urban life.
An interview with the artist and more photos on NPR here.

13 September 2006

Erster Schultag, first day of school

Today is the first day of school in Bayern (Bavaria). I love the tradition of the Schultuete. Kids entering the first year of compulsory education get a cone-shaped bag, usually from their parents, filled with sweets and other little trinkets (see photo). You can buy them or make them yourself. There are lots of places online where you can learn to make the most elaborate Tueten.

My niece Tori started second grade this fall and my nephew Cale started first grade. I didn't even think of making Schultueten for them but I did send some fun school supplies. I'll do this next year for them even though, in theory, they will be a bit too old. I'm sure they won't mind!

12 September 2006


This spent this afternoon at a board meeting. I think I was more introspective today. A few observations:
  • If there is a negative to anything, some people will spot it and point it out to everyone.
  • For some people, a board meeting is simply an excuse to show off how smart they are and how much they know about everything. (Oh I don't know. If you have a Ph.D. I assume you know a couple of things.)
  • Some people just put in their time.
  • Some people have a lovely way of looking at the bright side.
  • Some people seem unengaged and then they say something that blows you away or brings clarity or closure to a situation.
  • Some people are incredibly appreciative of even the smallest of contributions or niceties.
  • Some people will always welcome you with a smile.

11 September 2006

Innovation ideas from Google

Those people at Google are so smart! Google’s 9 notions of innovation, as noted on Welcome to Optimism.
  1. Ideas come from everywhere. (Google expects you to innovate.)
  2. Share everything you can. (Every idea accessible to everyone.)
  3. You’re brilliant. We’re hiring. (Google favours intelligence over experience.)
  4. License to pursue dreams. (Employees get a ‘free’ day a week to pursue self-set projects.)
  5. Innovation, not instant perfection. (Google launches early and often with small beta tests.)
  6. Don’t politic, use data. (Use of ‘I like’ discouraged.)
  7. Creativity loves restraint. (Give people a vision.)
  8. Worry about usage and users, not money. (Provide something simple to use, easy to love. Money will come.)
  9. Don’t kill projects, morph them. (There’s always a kernel of something good that can be salvaged.)

08 September 2006

Daily Dose of Imagery

On Daily Dose of Imagery, you can see something interesting or lovely every day. (See timelapse Toronto photo at right.) It's a tasty treat for your eyes.

07 September 2006

Helping kids torment their families

I went to Target today over lunch. I usually take a quick run through the one-spot area to see what kind of odd things they have for $1. I hit paydirt today. Whooppee cushions! I bought two for my oldest niece and nephew (they're 8 and 6).

They're just the right age to think these are the funniest thing ever. (My niece is the one who, out of the blue, asked me, "Is barf the same thing as vomit?") Their parents won't likely appreciate these items. Oh well. It's my job to get them/teach them weird things (nothing dangerous) and cover them with temporary tattoos. I take that job seriously.

The Coffee Office

The Coffee Office via Springwise.
Based in Windsor, Ontario, The Coffee Office was founded to offer business professionals everything they need to stay productive outside a traditional office, in what trendwatching.com calls a being space. A café section is open to everyone, and like the rest of the building, offers free high-speed wireless internet and plenty of power points.
What a great concept! Developed by those clever Canadians. Oh when is one coming to Minneapolis/St. Paul? Imagine, a place where you can get your work done, in quiet, in a comfy chair and with a lovely coffee by your side? Check out the photo montage on the site. The comfy chairs with lapdesks and coffee-cup holders are gorgeous.
BEING SPACES: commercial living-room-like settings, where catering and entertainment aren't just the main attraction, but are there to facilitate small office/living room activities like watching a movie, reading a book, meeting friends and colleagues, or doing your admin.

Starbucks is a great example on a global scale, while many companies in Japan, China and South-Korea offer deluxe gaming and manga-reading facilities, as well as semi-private DVD booths.

BEING SPACES charge us for eating, drinking, playing, listening, surfing, working, or meeting, just as we would at home or in the office, while successfully reintegrating us into city life.

06 September 2006

Make the world a better place

I read about We Are What We Do on Welcome to Optimism. I simply love it! The site is devoted to all the things you can do to make the world better.

We’re not another charity. We’re not an institution. We Are What We Do is a movement. We’d like to inspire people to use their everyday actions to change the world. Whoever they are. And wherever they are. And that includes you.

We’ve created 50 simple, everyday actions that can improve our environment, our health, and our communities, making our planet and the people on it much happier. We started by putting these actions in a book, but the whole movement is getting bigger. And bigger.

There are easy things like, "praise people," along with more challenging things like "calculate your carbon footprint." All of the ideas have information on how to get started as well as additional resources.

Mothers are mothers

There's a fascinating story in the Village Voice: "Weeping With the Enemy. Phyllis Rodriguez lost her son at the World Trade Center. And then she found the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui."

The story is quite long but well worth the read. The two women bonded initially because they are both mothers who have, figuratively or literally, lost sons. And then they became friends.
It's not a sappy story or one you can easily dismiss. It's quite captivating.

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine is the best movie I've seen in a long time. It's about your typical dysfunctional family trying to hold it all together. The daughter, Olive, wants to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant but does not look or act like your typical little-kid pageant contestant (no overstyled hair, ladeled-on makeup, phony smile, etc.). She's just a regular kid.

Then there is her uncle, fresh out of the hospital after a suicide attempt, her stepbrother who doesn't speak, her grandfather who got kicked out of his retirement community for snorting heroin. You get the idea. The characters are well developed. Edgy but believable. And at the end, the stories wrap up well but without a typcial Hollywood ending in which every "i" is dotted and every "t" crossed and the moral of the story is practically printed on the screen. I can't really say much more about the movie or I'll spoil it. It is touching and funny and worth a full-price ticket at the movie theater!

School lunch horrors

Ask almost anyone who endured the school lunch cafeteria, and they'll have a funny or frightening tale. How could you not with so many kids packed into such a small place. And with children's tendency to vomit at the drop of a hat.

Take a look at Shovel Time (on the left side of the page). How many now have lifelong warped eating habits?

04 September 2006

Baking nirvana

I love to bake muffins. What I don't like is how either the muffin tin gets nasty or the liner paper sticks to the muffin. I've bought the aluminum liners before but I go through them too fast. The perfect solution is these little beauties from Crate & Barrel. They're silicone so the muffins pop right out. And cleaning them is a ton easier than getting the last bit of crust out of the muffin tin corner. And they're just cute!

Virtual threats and inflated sense of self

Sometimes you get tired of bugging people for things you need. Enter the Mobster Threat Generator. No more, "Could I have that report by the end of the day?" or "When can you update that information?" A picture says a 1,000 words, especially if the picture is of mobster Lucky Luciano, the father of modern organized crime in the U.S.

Once everyone is doing whatever you say, whenever you ask, it's time to flaunt your power with the Offical Seal Generator. You can download the image or get it officially printed onto a refrigerator magnet or sticker.

(SurveyMonkey is a Web tool we use at work. I love it and have been know to say "I want to be SurveyMonkey certified!" There is no such certification available. But now, at least, I have an official seal.)

03 September 2006

Yoga Mutts


Welcome to the test kitchen

Now that the weather is turning a little cooler, I'm again getting the urge to cook and bake. I made a yummy Malaysian Pizza late last week. (I'm a sucker for about anything that contains peanut butter). The sauce would also make a good base for a stir fry.

I'm a baby when it comes to spicy hot things so I left out the red pepper. And I didn't have any green onion in the house. So my version was a little blander than it could be.

On the baking front, the blueberry volcano recipe is just as lovely with dried cranberries as it is with blueberries.

A cool way to be friendly to the environment

The Ecopod is one cool idea. However, since it's debut in the U.S. is going to be in the Williams-Sonoma January catalog, I think it will likely be quite spendy. (Williams-Sonoma = housewares lust.) Here's the skinny from Springwise (bold-faced emphasis is mine):

Created in partnership with BMW DesignWorksUSA, Ecopod's E1 Series is a household recycling center that aims to change the way consumers take out their trash. The appliance houses a compactor, and provides an efficient way to crush, store and redeem recyclable beverage containers, specifically plastic bottles and aluminium cans.

Consumers throw their bottle or can in the appropriate slot, step on a foot pedal, and enjoy the satisfying sound of compaction. The compacted container falls into an internal bin, which can be removed for redemption or curbside disposal. Each pod has storage capacity for approximately 50 crushed containers, while an upper compartment has additional room for glass bottles, newspapers and other recyclable materials. Everything neatly stored away and ready to moved to the next step in the recycling chain.